Sidewalk missing on Rankin Road as 13 Investigates finds link between traffic deaths, race, income

Shannon Ryan Image
Friday, November 17, 2023
Houston traffic deaths tied to race, income, 13 Investigates finds
Walter McMahon was hit along Rankin Road, where pedestrians aren't afforded sidewalks. This serves as the impetus of a 13 Investigates report.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Researchers say there are economic and racial disparities in traffic deaths in the City of Houston. Critical infrastructure, like sidewalks, is underfunded in areas where people rely most on public transportation.

"Do something!" pleaded Waldean Cameron, sobbing. "This is ridiculous. No one should have to go through the pain I'm going through right now."

Cameron's little brother, Walter McMahon, was killed just outside city limits in May. Like over 88,000 other Harris County residents, McMahon had no car access - meaning he had to walk and take the bus.

On May 19, McMahon, who Cameron said was homeless, was headed to a motel to shelter for the evening with friends. They got off the bus, walking along a dark portion of Rankin Road near I-45. The group was hit by a driver who investigators believe was intoxicated. The crash killed McMahon and his friend and sent his friend's girlfriend to the hospital.

Cameron said McMahon, whom she affectionately referred to as her "Tag-along," set out on a path of self-destruction after his daughter died.

She fought for years to get him back home, clean, and off the streets. She felt she was finally making progress in the months leading up to his death. They had begun making plans.

"He didn't want to die. He wanted to live. He wanted to love again instead of just being a shadow," Cameron said.

McMahon now sits in an urn inside Cameron's living room. She told ABC13 that looking at it is like "losing him all over again."

A recent University of Texas at Austin study found that majority-Black neighborhoods in Houston experienced 35% more crashes than non-Black neighborhoods, despite those neighborhoods making up only 14% of the area analyzed by researchers. Infrastructure deficiencies contributed to 54% of crashes in majority-Black communities.

McMahon was one of at least 16 people walking along that few-block stretch of Rankin over the last decade. Cameron wants to know what it will take for him to be the last.

"We are having nothing but heartache right now. I'm literally not sleeping, but maybe a few hours a day. That's it, that's all I get, and then I'm awake, and I'm crying, and I'm walking around this house thinking, 'What do I have to do to make somebody just wake up?'" Cameron cried.

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